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Review of the Short Film “Before Anyone Else” (2023) directed by Tetsuya Mariko.
Review of the Short Film "Before Anyone Else" (2023) directed by Tetsuya Mariko.

Review of the Short Film “Before Anyone Else” (2023) directed by Tetsuya Mariko.

“Jimmy, this is a case of kidnapping.”

Tetsuya Mariko has made a significant impact in the Japanese film industry in recent years through movies like “Destruction Babies” and “Miyamoto”. He is one of the few remaining directors known for creating tense cinema, following in the footsteps of renowned directors such as Takashi Miike, Sion Sono, Toshiaki Toyoda, and Shinya Tsukamoto. In his latest film, “Before Anyone Else”, Mariko takes on the challenge of showcasing his talents in the United States, not because he is unable to find opportunities in Japan, but as a new creative endeavor.

The movie opens with a scene in black-and-white and low definition, showing a young woman driving a car, exiting the car, and the camera then shifting to the backseat where a baby is sitting. The following scene is in full color and depicts a group of four individuals, two Americans and two Asian Americans, breaking into a pawn shop. Two of them, named Jimmy and Lex, manage to escape on their skateboards with a bag of stolen goods. They discuss the possibility of going to California while riding away. Eventually, they come across an abandoned car in an empty lot and discover a small child in the backseat and a gun in the glove compartment. Soon after, they encounter their “comrades” and Jimmy decides to sell the gun, but things do not go as planned.

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Tetsuya Mariko is the director of a somber short film that utilizes elements such as color, wind, and cold to create a bleak atmosphere. The main characters come from broken families and their actions are influenced by trauma and irrationality. Specifically, Jimmy appears to be completely out of control while his girlfriend’s treatment of a child solidifies the overall tone of the film. There are also similarities to the film “Shoplifters,” but the overall tone and change of location differentiate this movie from Koreeda’s work. Finally, the ending ties everything together in a powerful manner.

The cinematography by Yasuyuki Sasaki is fascinating. It features a security footage scene, intriguing frames, a TV shot that provides additional information about the events, long panning shots, and eventually some close-ups. These techniques are effectively used to enhance the overall bleak tone of the film, along with the color scheme. The editing by Ryoma Hirata maintains a relatively fast pace that complements the aesthetic style of the film. However, the limited budget of the short film is noticeable, especially in the exterior sound and visuals, although it does not significantly detract from the overall quality.

Akiyo Komatsu and Chloe Skoczen’s performances as Jimmy and Lex, respectively, are overly exaggerated and do not fit well with the film. Their delivery of lines, particularly when expressing anger, is unconvincing and serves as one of the biggest flaws in the movie.

While “Before Anyone Else” is a decent initial departure, it falls short compared to Mariko’s previous works. However, the story and ending make up for it to a great extent.